A Marsh-Front Oasis

The Lowcountry’s Kiawah River Community offers the best of both modern amenities and the natural world

Photo: Peter Frank Edwards

Indigenous seagrasses fill the Pagliocco's front lawn.

When Jamie and Jamie Pagliocco transition from their primary residence in New Hampshire to their riverfront winter retreat in the South Carolina Lowcountry, they trade their busy, car-dependent schedules for slower-paced days filled chiefly with commutes by bike, foot, boat, or golf cart. “It almost feels like cheating if you drive your vehicle to work out,” Mrs. Pagliocco says. “It’s rare that we use our car.”

Walkability and thoughtfully preserved natural vistas to soak up during a stroll are part of the fabric of Kiawah River, the two-thousand-acre master-planned coastal community on Johns Island that the Paglioccos call home September through May.

Photo: Julia Lynn

A second-story outdoor room over the pool.

After vacationing in the Lowcountry for years, the Paglioccos decided in 2018 that it was time to invest in their slice of the region. Though they first looked east of the Cooper River and in downtown Charleston, renderings of the forthcoming Kiawah River community, which is situated on the banks of the eponymous river, caught their eye. “There was not a tuber in the ground when we came and looked at it, and it was only by chance that [sales executive] David Nelson was available,” Mrs. Pagliocco recalls. “He said, ‘If you can get here within the hour, I can show you around.’ And at the end of that hour, we put an offer in on our lot.”

The Paglioccos’ nearly half-acre waterfront property backs up to a vibrant tributary teeming with wildlife. To bring their vision of a riverfront retreat to life, they enlisted a talented team fluent in coastal cottage vernacular: architect Beau Clowney, Structures Building Company, and interior designer Allison Elebash. Kiawah River provides property owners with a thoughtfully curated selection of best-in-class vendors to choose from, a helpful perk for those unfamiliar with the area, notes Mrs. Pagliocco.

Photo: Julia Lynn

A sunlit butler's pantry.

The couple envisioned a cool, comfy, coastal aesthetic for their interior, which Elebash delivered with aplomb. Natural textures, brass accents, and original artwork add warmth and eclectic charm to a base palette of soothing blues and verdant greens. The crisp white exterior of the four-bedroom property—which is spacious enough to comfortably fit the couple, their three adult children, and two dogs—is complemented by a low-maintenance landscape designed by Wertimer + Cline.

The study offers a place for Mr. Pagliocco and visiting children to work remotely, while the open-concept kitchen, living, and dining space often brims with activity. A wall of windows along the back of the house ushers in dappled sunlight and affords calming views of the river and the varied species that call the tidal marsh home. Roseate spoonbills and other wading birds are often spotted. “A couple of days ago, two eagles landed in the oak tree in our backyard,” notes Mrs. Pagliocco. “And we always love to watch the dolphins.”

Photo: Julia Lynn

The dining room serves as an elegant tree house.

The social nature of the community has been an unexpected delight for the couple. Generous porches on the front and back of the house draw the family outside whenever the weather allows. And the backyard’s temperature-controlled pool and covered kitchen and dining area host frequent get-togethers with family and friends. “We go to happy hour most Friday nights at the Spring House where we like to hang out with current homeowners and those who are in various stages of construction at Kiawah River,” Mrs. Pagliocco says. “We really love the community here.”

While the house serves as an idyllic home base, the Paglioccos don’t typically spend their days indoors. Every morning, they walk through their back gate to take the dogs for a stroll along Kiawah River’s twenty-mile trail system. They may bike to the marsh-front Spring House to meet friends for a poolside lunch or to take an exercise class. “And we’re just thirty minutes door-to-door from Charleston,” Mrs. Pagliocco says, noting that they take advantage of the Holy City’s culinary riches often.

Photo: Peter Frank Edwards

The private patio, bordered by the outdoor kitchen and creek.


Yet when the weather’s right and the tide is high, the Paglioccos are on the water. Mr. Pagliocco is a seasoned fly fisherman and was drawn to the community’s private boat ramp, just two minutes from their house. With thriving estuaries, uncrowded waters, and a healthy redfish population, the Kiawah River is an angler’s paradise. While the tributary that flows behind their house is a productive area to fish, Mr. Pagliocco generally spends his time exploring the tidal plains of the Kiawah River. “My husband enjoys the search as much as the fishing itself and the diversity of wildlife on the river and the challenge of learning a new fishery is exciting.”

After a day on the water, the couple might swing by the Goatery to pick up some farm-fresh eggs or bike through the community’s hundred-acre working farm to say hello to its chickens, donkeys, and cows. “We love the agrihood aspect,” Mrs. Pagliocco says, noting that they enjoy the bounty from the onsite farm through CSA boxes each harvest season. Once the Dunlin Auberge Resort opens its doors within Kiawah River next year, the self-proclaimed foodies plan to dine there often—then take advantage of the easy commute home. “It’s just beautiful here, it really is,” Mrs. Pagliocco says. “And not having to get in your car is fabulous.”

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